By AHMED AL-HAJ, Associated Press March 12, 2011
SANAA, Yemen – Yemeni security forces stormed a square early Saturday
where thousands of pro-democracy protesters have been camped out for the
past month, firing tear gas and live ammunition during a pre-dawn raid
that killed at least one person, doctors and witnesses said.
Television footage showed protesters overcome by tear gas lying in the
central square in the capital, Sanaa, the site of a monthlong sit-in to
demand the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. An ally in the Obama's
administration's fight against al-Qaida, Saleh has been in power for 32
Shortly after midnight, security troops surrounded the central square with
police cars and armored personnel carriers and began calling on protesters
through loudspeakers to go home. At 5 a.m., security forces stormed in,
firing tear gas and live ammunition.
One protester died from a bullet to the head, which may have come from a
sniper on the rooftop of a nearby building, witnesses said. Abdelwahed
al-Juneid, a volunteer doctor working with the protesters, said around 250
people were wounded.
The raid came hours after Yemen's largest demonstrations in a month Friday
were met by police gunfire that injured at least six protesters and seemed
certain to fuel more anger against the deeply unpopular president.
Hundreds of thousands of protesters gathered in Yemen's four largest
provinces, ripping down and burning Saleh's portraits in Sheikh Othman,
the most populated district in the southern port city of Aden, witnesses
Security forces hurled tear gas into crowds close to a stadium and then
opened fire, using machine guns mounted on vehicles, said eyewitness Sind
In the conservative capital, Sanaa, thousands of women participated in
demonstrations — a startling move in a deeply tribal society where women
are expected to stay out of sight.
Demonstrators demanded jobs and greater political freedom and decried
Saleh's proposal Thursday that the government create a new constitution
guaranteeing the independence of parliament and the judiciary, calling it
too little and too late.
The autocratic leader is also an ally in the Obama administration's push
to eliminate the local branch of al-Qaida, which has attempted to attack
the United States. He has also worked closely with the Saudis to quash his
own Shiite uprising in the north.
Yemen was chaotic even before the demonstrations began, with a resurgent
al-Qaida, a separatist movement in the south and a sporadic Shiite
rebellion in the north vexing the government, which has little control
outside major urban areas.